Garver, ArDOT to host virtual meeting for XNA connector road to seek public feedback

Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) recently announced a virtual public meeting will take place in March to receive feedback on the more than $85 million project to build a connector road to improve access to the Highfill airport.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation’s (ArDOT) environmental study for the project recommended the new road to be built from the U.S. Highway 412 bypass and Arkansas Highway 112 interchange to XNA. The existing segment of the Highway 412 bypass, also called the Springdale Northern Bypass, comprises Arkansas Highway 612.

Garver, in coordination with ArDOT, will host the meeting live via Microsoft Teams. The meeting will start at 5:30 p.m. March 2 and include a live question-and-answer session. Link here to access the meeting. Feedback will be accepted through 4:30 p.m. March 17, said Alex English, public relations and marketing specialist for XNA.

The total project is expected to cost $85.6 million, which includes $5.8 million for right-of-way acquisition, English said. The Arkansas Highway Commission recently released the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program for 2021-2024, and it shows project development would be funded in federal fiscal year 2023, which starts Oct. 1, 2022. Project development for the 3.6-mile project would cost a total of $11 million, according to the program.

The overall project is expected to be paid for with receipts from the half-cent sales tax that voters permanently extended in November. Also, XNA has about $14 million in federal money reserved for the project, English said.

Garver is expected to use the information collected from the March 2 meeting and other public feedback to determine whether any revisions to the project need to be completed. This might include revisions to the alignment or additional studies to address concerns.

Afterward, engineering staff will prepare a recommendation of the preferred route and submit that to ArDOT for review and approval. When staff have completed enough of the design for the preferred route to determine how it will affect properties along it, staff will host a design public hearing and offer the public and area officials another opportunity to comment. Engineers don’t have an estimate when the design public hearing will take place, English said.

The feedback from the meeting will be used to develop a response to the comments. The comments along with any changes made to the preferred route will be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration to seek a finding of no significant impact. The federal agency will determine whether to concur with a finding of no significant impact and could request more information.

In December 2019, ArDOT hosted a public meeting to gather feedback on three alignments to improve access to XNA. The three proposed alignments included expanding portions of existing roads or building new highways. One of the alignments would include building a four-lane divided highway from Highway 612 to the south entrance of the airport along state Highway 264. Other proposals included widening segments of highways 112 and 264, building a shorter road to XNA or not making any improvements.

Between 2019 and 2020, XNA enplanements, or passengers flying out, declined 60.9% from 922,533 to 360,133.

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